Month: September 2014

Pride

There are countless films about love, but you will be hard pressed to find one better than Pride, because that’s what the film is about; love. It’s not a love story as such. There is no boy-meets-girl , but it is about love and how we as humans love one another. Pride tells us the story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM); a group of (surprise, surprise) gay men and women who supported the miner’s strike of the mid 80s. Led by Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer), LGSM struggled to find any miners willing to accept any money from “their kind”, until they happened across one South Wales mining community that did just that. As a film maker, I have been trained to analyse everything I watch; to critically look at the framing of each scene and how the choices made by these particular film makers helps to tell the story written in words. It is extremely rare to find a film where this instinct to analyse doesn’t kick in while watching it, but Pride is one of the very few films to have achieved this. From a technical point of view Pride is not the most beautifully shot film we will see this year, there will be no awards for editing or sound design or any of that. It’s a simply put together piece of cinema, but...

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A Most Wanted Man

A Most Wanted Man will fall into the thriller genre, but that’s a vague term – “thriller”. It certainly won’t get anybody’s pulse racing, but that is not exactly a bad thing. It is instead a slow burning, deep and clever sort of thriller designed to engage your mind rather than get the adrenaline pumping. As the head of a top secret German anti-terrorism group, Gunther Bachman (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is tracking a suspected terrorist (Grigoriy Dobrygin) who has just arrived in Hamburg after spending years in Turkish and Russian jails. Naturally, he wants to know why he’s chosen Hamburg as his sanctuary and his questions lead him to prestigious bank owner Tommy Brue (Willem Dafoe) and in turn the flow of money for al-Qaeda. One would imagine that being set against the backdrop of one of the world’s most picturesque cities would produce some brilliant, inspiring cinematography, but not so. The film is by no means an ugly piece of work, but it is ugly in a beautiful sort of way. They haven’t gone around showcasing Hamburg, yelling “LOOK WHERE THIS FILM IS SET” at the top of their voice, but delve into the dark and gritty side of the city that could in all honesty be almost any city in Europe. This works in the favour of the film, which as mentioned is not a pretty one,...

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The Riot Club

Joffrey Baratheon. Agent Smith. Lord Voldemort. The Terminator. The thing all these people have in common is that they’re villains. Not just villains, but great villains. And the thing that makes them these evildoers so great is that we all love to hate them. They’re despicable, tough, unfaltering and all of those things are brilliant, especially since we’re supposed to feel all of those things. Someone should have passed on a few pointers on how to make the audience feel these things for characters they aren’t supposed to like to The Riot Club. It’s a film where 95% of the characters are supposed to be unlikable, and unlikable they certainly are, but you won’t love hating them; you’ll just detest them. None of ten members of The Riot Club showed any redeeming features, any charm or any selflessness. I spent the whole time wanting to punch the cast for thinking that it was okay to portray such a character.   Based on Laura Wade’s stage show Posh, The Riot Club gives us a look at how “the other half” live. Excess, finery and an endless amount of money and privilege, and more than just a sprinkling of debauchery. At Oxford University there is a secret organisation; The Riot Club. Membership to The Riot Club is only gained through impeccable education and, as club president Leighton tells us “the ability...

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A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014)

Outside of a few moments of kind of shocking violence — most of which is done to women, which is going to have a lot of people up in arms — there’s really nothing worth talking about when it comes to A Walk Among the Tombstones. Perhaps that’s why it’s easy to narrow in on the violence. Does that mean it’s done its job? Since we’re talking about the “shocking” part, it worked, right? I don’t know. Having a mundane private investigator movie to house the shock emphasizes the shock, sure, but it feels more like we’re talking about it because that’s all we’ve got, not because it’s so incredibly controversial. Based on the Lawrence Block novel, and brought to the screen by Scott Frank (he both wrote and directed), A Walk Among the Tombstones stars Liam Neeson as retired cop Matt Scudder, someone whose name I only remembered because I looked it up online afterward. He used to be a police officer who drank, but after an “incident,” he retired and now he does “favors” for people. In exchange for “gifts.” You see where I’m going with this, I’m sure. Matt’s hired by Kenny (Dan Stevens) to track down two men who took his wife. They killed her and chopped up her body. It turns out that there are other stories like this one. And once a young...

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This is Where I Leave You

Upon seeing the trailer for This is Where I Leave You, I found myself having flashbacks to Eulogy. A death in the family brings everyone together, during which they’ll fight, learn from each other, and grow? Sounds just like Eulogy. Well, it kind of is. It even has the same person dying (an elderly father) and a (requisite?) lesbian couple. But there’s one key difference. In this film, most of the drama comes from relationships they have outside of the family, not within it. It’s not sibling fighting sibling; it’s sibling whining about his or her partner not being the greatest. And it usually does feel like whining, by the way. So much of this movie falls into “oh woe is me” territory. It’s just whining and whining and whining, and then a dirty joke, followed by more whining. Eventually this all leads to revelations about how one should live his or her life, and how life is messy and complicated and stuff, but this isn’t new material, and it certainly doesn’t make for a very enjoyable watch. It feels like a slog, even though This is Where I Leave You only runs for just over 100 minutes. If we have a lead, it’s Judd (Jason Batemen), who opens the film on a happy day — it’s his wife’s (Abigail Spencer) birthday — and turns into a very upsetting...

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